Tag Archives: career

Missing Something

I walked up to the documentary filmmaker after her presentation at my school.

“I’m a filmmaker too,” I said. “Well… it’s more of a hobby.”

She smiled and nodded encouragingly. “That’s how it starts.”

She’s right.

What’s the difference between a hobby and a career? And how do you differentiate your serious professional passion from your serious personal hobby?

This is what I think: No matter how talented you are in a certain area, if you don’t mind letting somebody else do it, let somebody else do it. Example. My major included a heavy-handed serving of design, and I impressed a professional designer whom I deeply respect with my emerging design skills. Though I have above average ability in design, I’m totally happy leaving it to others. Design is not my calling.

Instead, pursue subjects that you’re not only talented in, but that you feel shouldn’t be happening without you. Example. In summer of 2016 I was a tour guide in Admissions when I found out last minute that a video crew was coming to campus to film. I could feel myself getting antsy as minutes ticked by that morning. I was missing something. Something big. I was in the wrong place. I plucked up my courage and asked my boss if I could go, and was greatly relieved to hear the gracious yes.

This is the difference between a hobby that stays a hobby and a hobby that becomes a professional passion. If you can tolerate other folks doing it for you, if you don’t feel possessive about it, then it’s not really your passion after all. If, however, you feel you’re truly missing something when the work is being done without you, that you’ve just got to be in the fray, you’ve found your niche. Chase it. Catch it. And take the time to encourage wannabes.

The Introvert at Work

Keyboards click all around me. I’m blissfully unaware. It’s 3pm on a sunny September afternoon, and this is my freshman composition class. We’ve been instructed to free write, individually, as a class. Alone together. My fingers punch the keys like a madwoman until the girl behind me growls, “Do you think you could type a little quieter?”

Oh. Sorry.

The spell broken, I try not to pester my classmates with frenzied keystrokes. I tiptoe along on the same thought train, and think to myself how happy I am.

Introverts don’t hate people. Introverts are sensitive to people. Introverts need walls to protect them from people and at the same time can only find so much happiness alone. As an introverted college grad and professional, I know there’s a sweet spot when it comes to social interaction and the ideal work environment, and it all boils down to the recipe discovered in English 101.

1. A lone worker is a lonely worker.

This is something I never would have believed even a few short months ago, having had to put up with arbitrary team projects for too long. But as a working professional who is able to spend some time in-office and some time working remotely, I’ve experienced firsthand that positive social motivation occurs when working in close proximity with others.

2. Alone Together

This is this introvert’s ideal work environment. Being in fairly close proximity with peers who are working on related projects, whether it’s their own creative writing or a client’s new website, provides both social motivation and the mental space needed for an introvert to get to work.

3. The Team

A sure way to destroy an introvert’s ability to be productive is to ask them to think fast in actively social situations. Brainstorm sessions always get me, because interacting with teammates usually takes all my brainpower. This isn’t to say introverts can’t handle teamwork; rather, introverts shine when allowed to do their own thing, and love to see their work helping to further a greater cause.

It’s a sunny summer afternoon in the office, and I’m hearing keyboards in surround sound. Behind me on the right is Web Dev. On my left is Marketing. They each have distinct sounds. Tap-tap-tap, fast and furious: email being sent to client. Swish, swish: mouse being dragged across screen, designing an ad. Bang bdang bang: code being typed on full-size keyboards, not these flat newfangled Mac things. And then there’s me, left mentally alone to complete my tasks, yet furthering the project we’re all working on in different specialized ways.

I’m the introvert at work. This is my ideal.

Why You Should Write When There’s No Time

If you don’t write when you don’t have time for it, you won’t write when you do have time for it.” ― Katerina Stoykova Klemer

When I became busy with college, I didn’t like this quote. First of all, as a homeschooled high schooler I’d had plenty of time to write, and write I did. Poems, novels, far-fetched tales of adventure in Africa, and letters—so many letters. Take that, Katerina. I wrote even when I had time.

Then college started. I valued grades over words on the page. All of a sudden, college ended and a career began. I start to see that I’ll never have time to write, at least not in the foreseeable future. What’s a writer to do?

Write when there’s no time. Up to 15 minutes of creative free-writing a day, just to get words on the page and a blog post out. I’ve finally learned that practice makes better, no matter how much raw talent you do or don’t have. Through practice, you can better understand your craft and yourself. No practice, and you’re a seed without soil.

I’ve noticed something interesting about writing when there’s no time. Katerina’s right. After a busy weekday, it’s easier for me to write than on a free weekend. The pressure is a motivator. And, against all indications to the contrary, writers aren’t hermits. A big part of the job is spending time out in the world with other people, interacting with them, exchanging ideas, getting to know the readers.

Even when there’s no time, if you want to write, write. For five minutes. Maybe just ten words. If you love it like I do, this will be enough. It’ll remind you what writing’s like. And if you ever get the time to write more, you’ll be ready.

Discovering Your Career

It can take years of adult life before an individual realizes what they’re really good at. Years! Since I’ll be applying to graduate programs in a number of months, I’m inclined to speed up that process.

I’ve found that passionate interest can be very hard to tell from practical talent, and when pursuing a career, talent (more than passion) is what counts. Passion is a prerequisite to talent, and acts as the necessary motivation to devote time and effort toward an activity. However, the presence of passion doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of skill.

Take for instance my three years of competition in speech and debate. What got me started in the league was my passionate interest in oral interpretation, a form of storytelling and acting. I also experimented with debate out of curiousity. As the years went by, my interps never ranked very highly (though I loved performing them). Debating, however, was another story—I consistently ranked higher as my skill level rose. Despite my own bias towards interp, dispassionate panels of judges helped me realize where my strongest talent existed.

The ingredients of speedy self-discovery seem to be experience, second opinions, and (to a lesser degree) contemplation. When all these components come together, it’s hard to ignore the boundaries separating talent from pure passion.

Choose Your Future – Now!

What would you say if someone asked you to choose what you want to do with the next phase of your life?

The question has been posed to me, in multiple forms, a lot recently. It’s pretty unnerving. The reason is that I’ve decided to graduate a year early from undergraduate college, and have suddenly put myself on the fast track to the future.

Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?”

Answering that question is key to finding appropriate graduate schools. It needs to be answered so I can form the right kind of future for myself—one I’ll enjoy and thrive in. What if I answer incorrectly? What if I just don’t know?

Thinking back to when I first entered college as a freshman, I had little idea what I wanted to do. I knew what I liked—writing and video—and went from there. I’ve learned about the intricacies of these two professional fields . . . but not enough to be able to see the future.

Perhaps I’d do well to remember that finding a good course or a school that fits is a lot like finding a friend or romantic partner. There’s more than one good fit available, and no place or person is perfect. Experimentation is key to finding out what you really like . . . so whatever career I settle on for the future, I better start today.

What do Grades Really Measure?

Everyone knows that getting high grades is getting good grades. A high grade is supposed to show that you really understand the material in an academic course. It’s supposed to reflect your intelligence, or your talent, or both.

These are not what grades really measure. Talent and intelligence and understanding all help in getting good grades, to be sure—but they’re not fully necessary.

Academic grades measure dedication. Without dedication—the will to go to class, stay on top of assignments, and struggle through the challenges—Einstein would fail at physics.

I’m finishing a tough course right now. Calculus II, and we’re doing infinite series, which are perplexing to me. I have little talent nor mathematical intelligence (I only imitate math, I don’t create), and I often feel like a Chinese Room when it comes to math problems. I would be doomed if grades didn’t reflect dedication.

I am dedicated. Up until recently, I wondered whether willpower could make up for lack of talent and interest. It can—to an extent. And I wondered whether I could succeed by willpower alone in a subject that doesn’t come naturally to me, or whether I’m bound by fate and genetics to do what I’m good at and interested in.

This weekend, I accidentally convinced myself that there’s no substitute for passion. I had two things on my mind: Tuesday’s math test, and a video for film history that was due a week later. What did I do? I spent 17 hours editing video, and 3 hours struggling with math.

The difference between these two activities was passion. When you’re passionate about something and actually want to do it, you end up giving it more of yourself—even your spare time. And putting in all those hours is what it takes to become a master. So I don’t think I could ever be that successful in a subject I’m not passionate about or talented in. The fire just isn’t there.

A lot of college and growing up seems to be about finding the place you fit in the world—that little niche where you’re talented, passionate, and better than most other people at doing what you do. A grade can help you find out what you’re good at. We’re all naturally dedicated to something or other, and when you find what you’re interested in, you tend to notice a change of focus—away from trying to motivate yourself just to do the homework, and more towards building a beautiful final product, be it a movie, a program, or a thoughtful new idea.

The Day I Became a Videographer

In my freshman year, I was a camera operator for the TV Club. When we put on a talent show in the auditorium, I got a better than front-row seat, hiding behind the giant 80’s TV camera with my heals hanging off the stage, trying to keep its bulk from rolling off and smashing to the floor two feet below. That show was one of the greatest highlights of my college career.

Too soon, the TV club fizzled. The student president was deeply interested in television production and transferred out, and no one took his place. I’ve occasionally wondered about transferring—I’m a video and writing person at a polytechnic institute—but never thought about it that seriously.

This is why. I believe that if I’m really serious about my profession, I’ll be able to pursue it almost anywhere. Transferring to a school with more video classes would be pointless for me, because if I’m not able to drum up video business right here, I’m just not that serious about it.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt

One month ago, I wandered into Career Services, just to see what opportunities awaited discovery there. I had a conversation with the director, and said I was interested in videography. He asked what type. I said I did documentaries. Then the director told me about his idea for an informational video series about Career Services—how to do business interviews, resume-writing, and internship preparation. He showed me many video examples of what he wanted, and said maybe I could be his summer intern. I set out to make a professional video demo, to get this job.

One month (28.5 hours) later, my demo was ready for viewing. I made sure that it was high-quality. The Career Services director loved it! This summer I’ll have my first videography job, and be one step closer to a dream career. And none of it would have happened if I didn’t walk through that door a month ago and say I did videography.

“If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you.” -James Baldwin

Videography and writing aren’t classes you take, they’re crafts you do. Be a go-getter. Get yourself noticed. More often than we think, we have everything we need right where we are to be who we want to be.